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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 480


Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs)(3.58) —I will quote a cable from Kuala Lumpur dated 14 March. This was a report from the High Commissioner about a discussion he had with the Malaysian Foreign Minister Tunku Rithauddeen. It states:

He took particular interest in your discussion with Hun Sen. (There was no/no suggestion at all that he was concerned in any way at your meeting with him).

It goes on to state:

Rithauddeen commented that your visit had obviously clarified the picture and that there was now a clear scenario of what Heng Samrin and the Vietnamese wanted. He remained of the view, however-

this should go in the record to balance it up-

that the Vietnamese had no wish to move towards a political settlement at present.

Whom do we believe-the Opposition speaking for the ASEAN countries with whom they have had no communication, or the people who speak for the governments in the capital cities of those countries? We have heard from the Thais and the Malaysians. I have pointed out the views of Singapore and Indonesia. Of course, the Philippines tends to be preoccupied with its internal affairs. There is nothing but a thin concoction put forward in this House today aimed at trying to generate political advantages at great cost to the political cohesion of this country and its foreign policy. What Mr Dhanabalan was talking about when he said that Australia seemed to be hysterical and what he was implying when he said that the behaviour was a 'convenient stick with which to beat Mr Hayden' was that really the contrivance of the Opposition among others, because of its clumsiness, had a very strong tendency to drag the ASEAN nations into the rather robust and, I might say, at times brutal domestic debate that takes place in this country on various issues-it happens now to be foreign policy-although they want no bar of it. That is the concern of those countries.

A number of other issues have been raised, including the 1987 deadline which was supposed to be confidential, and the CGDK forces able to participate in some sort of settlement in Kampuchea must move in that direction. Why is Vietnam going in that direction if, as it says, it is winning? What is the incentive? I think the incentive is quite clear; it is because of China. China is a great power in the region and it must be respected. Increasingly over time it is going to expand its positive influence throughout the region. If there is to be stability, finally there must be some sort of settlement with China. China's position is a principled one. We acknowledge that; we always have. We are well aware of the principles she has laid down.

I find it a matter of integrity to learn to live with and handle differences with other countries, for example, the ASEAN countries. It does not mean that we have to fracture or demolish relationships, although of course I acknowledge uninformed commentary which suggests that that has happened. The record I have outlined makes it clear that that has not happened. Commentary would have honourable members accept that I have done awful damage to personal relationships. The record I have outlined makes it clear that that does not stand up. There is nothing wrong with speculation, but it ought to be informed. The record makes it clear that it was ill-informed. That is the basis of the attack against me from the Opposition. In looking at history, particularly modern history, I believe that integrity is an important thing to apply when pursuing foreign policy. For instance-to move away from more substantial considerations there-our military intelligence assessments differ from those of some countries with a key concern about this issue. I made it clear to those countries that there are differences and what the nature of those differences are. I think it is to the credit of our intelligence assessment bodies that their analyses allow them intelligently and informedly to arrive at conclusions which may be at variation. They are looking after our national interest and applying their skills in an honest way. We do not seek to exaggerate this difference. In fact by and large I have kept it very low key and very much out of public debate, but debates such as this give us little choice because here one is projected into a position where one has to defend oneself. The nature of Australian political debate is very robust in our characteristic hurly-burly, all-in style. We understand it but our neighbours do not. They fear that they are being drawn into situations that they would prefer to be kept away from, particularly from Australian domestic politics. I can well understand that. But more than that, they fear that some of these differences will be emphasised in circumstances they would prefer not to occur. Once that happens the very thing that Opposition spokesmen are talking about will occur-the strength of some of their positions for negotiation could be undesirably diminished. The differences I am talking about-the military intelligence assessments-are no different from those which were being provided for the last Government. I had my first military intelligence assessment of the situation in Indo-China not long after becoming Foreign Minister. It is quite clear that these people will not concoct something for me and a different story for the conservatives.

The Opposition's approach to foreign affairs is to fawn all over the place and hope that it will be welcomed-a sort of deferential, servile approach to this very important national responsibility. We hear much from it about special relationships. What does it mean? It is deferential in foreign affairs to the point of self-effacement, so it has nothing there. What is it getting for this country? What has it got for us? It has no concrete achievements in foreign affairs. The other area of relationship is a commercial one. What advantages did we get from the Opposition when it was in government? Do not forget that we have been in government for about five-and-a-half of the last 36 years, so any long term problems we have must quite properly be sheeted home to the previous Government. The Opposition cannot win on foreign policy because it lacks the skeletal framework to hold it up. What about commerce? I shall give the figures of Australia's trade performance for the years 1973 and 1983. We had just under 2 per cent of the world trade in 1973, and in 1983 we have just over one per cent. Trade with Japan was nearly 12 per cent of total Japanese trade in 1973 and we are now down to 4 per cent. Our trade with East Asia-that is, Japan, China, the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong-was approaching 5 1/2 per cent but we are now down to nearly 3 per cent. ASEAN trade-this is the area of great success under the conservative coalition and its special relationship; the Opposition knows how to handle the ASEAN connection!-has fallen from fractionally over 3 per cent to 2 per cent in that 10 year period. China trade has fallen from 2.8 per cent to 1.8 per cent. So where do we stand? What does the Opposition hope to achieve? What is its record? Show us! That is the difference between a reactive and an historical approach to foreign policy. We can try to take charge of the course of events with a long term perceptive, or cringe and be servile in the way the Opposition has when in government. Look what happened to it. Nothing to show for foreign policy and duds and failures in commercial policy. We are on the right track, and others say we are on the right track. General Moerdani, the Chief of the armed services in Indonesia, has said things not dissimilar from views that have sometimes been expressed by us. The Centre for Strategic and Intelligence Studies, a think-tank in Indonesia, conducted a seminar in Vietnam. The aim of that was not so much to exchange ideas but to bring people together and to get ideas, if possible. I happen to know there have been other unspecified-by that I mean that I will not specify them-initiatives in the region.

We believe that the struggle for peace is justified, and I make no apologies for my role. From what I have learnt in speaking to Mr Thach and Mr Hun Sen, and from certain propositions which were put to me by the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, Mr Kapitsa, last week-and we will respond to them-I believe there is every justification for us to continue exploring this initiative. I do not want to exaggerate just where it might end up. It might stop right where it is, but on the other hand it may proceed.


Mr Coleman —It might get worse.


Mr HAYDEN —That is a possibility. The honourable member says that it might get worse, but it is better to try and to fail than never to have tried at all and to witness the whole regional situation progressively slide into some sort of instability generated by mounting super-power competitiveness in the region. The answers are not going to come easily. One thing I said to Hun Sen in Ho Chi Minh City was that, while we accept that Pol Pot cannot participate in settlements because of the callousness and odiousness of his background, we cannot write off 80,000 to 90,000 Khmer Rouge people. Whatever they might be called later, as a formula we cannot write them off. There will have to be contact and some sort of dialogue with them. That is rejected at this stage, but this may call for more resourcefulness and somehow down the road a new stage of development might take place. It might not, but it might.

Things such as proximity talks might have to be looked at, using third parties, surrogates, or some other sort of contact. The rabidness of this debate today, in response to my presence in Vietnam, the fellow traveller smears, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) suggesting I should be over at the Soviet embassy and that I am an appeaser-all this sort of puerile nonsense-is redolent of the completely spurious debate in this country for nearly two decades as to whether we ought to recognise communist China. Whitlam went to China as Leader of the Opposition. I still remember the then Prime Minister McMahon saying that the Chinese played with him like a fisherman plays a big fat trout which has been hooked on the line. A short time later the Americans were in China and the whole world collapsed around the conservatives. How much healthier the world is because we are having dialogue and exchanges with the Chinese.

I thank the House for its indulgence in allowing me to explore these issues to a considerable extent. I am grateful for its patience. I have had to sit quietly, clenching my teeth, for a couple of weeks while there has been damaging and inaccurate commentary about me, waiting for this opportunity to put, I believe, the record straight. I compliment those journalists who were with me and who reported the developments which took place as faithfully and as accurately as the circumstances would allow them. It was quite clear, however, on my return to Australia that the record of what had occurred had suffered rather badly because of an excitability which led people to claim that I had said things which the record shows convincingly that I did not say. More than that, the record shows that, contrary to what has been asserted or attributed to anonymous sources-allegedly from governments in the ASEAN countries-the ASEAN countries are prepared, or more than prepared, to live with what has taken place. A number of quotes that I have used show that they welcome aspects of it. Let us give Australia a bit of credit for trying to play a worthwhile role in a difficult situation.

Finally, why do we have a right to try to play this role? It is very simple. We are part of the region. We are not in the region of Antarctica. Things that happen in the region can affect us and can have profound consequences for our children. We have responsibilities to future generations, too. When there has been strategic turbulence in our area, Australia has just about always been involved. We were involved quite considerably in the Second World War. We were involved quite notably at the time of confrontation in regard to Malaysia. We lost about 500 young Australians in Vietnam. I make no judgment, provocative or otherwise, about the wiseness of that conflict. I recall only that not many countries in the region made that sort of sacrifice. Proportionate to our commitment, it was a very high cost. We have military detachments in the region which are welcomed. In fact, we are importuned to keep them there. So, we are wanted there. But if we have a history of being involved there and of being wanted there and in particular if we are to have this military involvement with the potential, should turbulence get out of hand, that we could be drawn into some sort of unstable security vortex, we want to know what is happening and we want to make a contribution in respect of our views and interests in relation to potential developments. It is modest; I think it has been worthwhile. I am pleased and honoured that the Prime Minister continues to extend his support and confidence to me. I take the responsibility for any shortcomings in the field, but we will keep trying.

Motion (by Mr Young)-by leave-agreed to:

That the honourable member for Goldstein be able to speak without limitation of time.